Monthly Archives: March 2019

Day One Hundred and Twenty Nine: Here comes Christmas: Part Two December 16th, 2018-January 10th, 2019

I swear it was full steam ahead for the rest of the holiday season. December for me just keeps getting busier. From the time we finished the Victorian Walking Tour to after the Epiphany my feet never touched the ground. Christmas tree sales kept me busy on the weekends, class finished up with my final exam night on the second week of December (I am very proud to say that I gave out 28 A’s, 2 Bt’s and 2 B’s) and then I really got busy with my volunteer work.

After the weekend with the Victorian Walking Tour and the Washington’s Crossing event, it was off to visit Lillian again. I had just seen her at Thanksgiving and here it was three weeks later, I was out on Long Island for another family event. The facility she lived in really does a lot of nice things for the families.

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I with her Christmas present, Petula the Pup from FAO Schwarz

I had given Lillian a choice, would she like me to come out for the Family Dinner or the the Family Concert the next week? I unfortunately could not do both. Work was getting busy and I had two Christmas parties to plan. So we decided on the Family dinner. We really had a nice time.

We joined her roommate, Marie and her two daughters for dinner that night. The facility had a nice dinner for us with roast beef, mashed potatoes and broccoli that was surprising well cooked and seasoned for a nursing facility and they gave you plenty of it. We had a nice time chatting and getting to know one another when Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance and greeted all the residents and their families. The two staff members who played the roles did a marvelous job with it and made it extra festive.

After dinner and a tour around the building greeting other residents and their families I said my goodbyes to Lillian and her roommate and her family. I had a long trip ahead of me as well. I could tell that Lillian was a little sad by it but I said that I would see her at Valentine’s Day and we would see each other after the craziness of the holidays was over. That is when I surprised her with the small Petula the Pup that we both used to sell in both of our time in the Pre-School Department at FAO Schwarz. She was very surprised and touched by it. It must have triggered something because I saw her cry a little. It made her happy that someone remembered (Please see the blog on Day One Hundred & Thirty-Lillian passed away three weeks after our dinner together).

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The next morning myself and the volunteers who work with me at work had our Christmas party for the residents of the Maywood facility that I work with on my job with the County of Bergen for our Post-Stroke & Disabled Support Group. We had entertainment with Van Martin Productions and we decorated the tables with garland and candy and the room for the holidays. The whole affect was very festive.

The ladies who are part of the group that comes to our events had a wonderful time. Each one of us baked a special dessert for the event and at all the place settings were chocolate Santa’s and candy canes for each resident. We served desserts and coffee to everyone, handed out gifts to all and had a wonderful afternoon of good food and wonderful entertainment.

That evening, I hosted an Italian dinner at my home for the ladies who volunteer for me. Taking everyone to a restaurant gets expensive plus at the holidays everyone rushes you out so I found it more personal to have it at my house.

I cooked the entire meal and served it. We started the meal with homemade mini-meatballs that I made a few days before, sauted shrimp and cheeses for the appetizer and for dinner I made chicken cutlets, spaghetti with marinara sauce, garlic bread and a nice salad all with the accompanying wines. We had a wonderful time and did a lot of laughing that night.

As I was serving dessert which I made an assortment of cookies and cakes, the noise got louder. Other guests joined us later and there was a lot of catching up to do. It was a enjoyable way to spend our last day together before the holidays.

The next day I joined a friend that I had not seen for almost two years for lunch in Sanducci’s at 620 Kinderkamack Road in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor). It was just nice to finally catch up as it had been a long time since we talked. We both agreed that our lives had us running in different directions. We spent our afternoon laughing at things from years ago and in our current lives. It is nice to spend time with friends at the holidays. I had not realized that Nancy and I had not seen one another in two years!

After lunch, I had to prepare another dinner as we held our annual Men’s Association Christmas Party at the tree-stand to end our season of selling. That Friday night, we had four trees on the lot and by the time the party was over we sold them out. We sold 338 trees (one was stolen and one was donated) during the holiday season and that was a new record for us.

I made a batch of stuffed shells for dinner and a batch of chocolate brownies for dessert. I never know what to make as it is a pot luck and all the guys bring something different but two years earlier three of us brought baked ziti. So I know shy away from that. That and I wanted something quick because I was still tired from cooking the night before.

It a fun evening of great food and conversation mostly dwelling on the success of this year’s sale. God, can some of these guys cook! Our former President, Mike, makes a venison chili that is always the highlight of the dinner especially on a cold night. The stuffed shells were put under the warmers and were a big hit. I never have to sell brownies to anyone. I was sure they were gone by the end of the evening.

The weather started to drop that night and after an hour at the party it went down to 35 degrees. Even sitting by the barrel fire, I could not take it anymore. I said my goodbyes by 9:00pm. I was exhausted  from a week of cooking and had still more to do over the weekend. I had to plan two menus for that Sunday and had to have back to back meals. One of the guys later on told me that a group of them were there until 2:00am. Not a night I would have been out.

I had to sleep in that Saturday morning because I was worn out from the running around that week but there was food to prepare, a house to clean and a table to set. I needed a break from it all to put me back into the spirit of the holiday so before I started all the prep work, I went to Ringwood Manor for  their celebration and to see the decorated house.

Ringwood Manor every year is beautifully decorated by a group of volunteers. The house was open for tours of life in the Victorian Age. Each of the rooms was decorated to the hilt with garland and plants and all sorts of decorations.

Ringwood Manor Christmas III

The Ringwood Manor Dining Room

Ringwood Manor has an interesting history. The area around Ringwood, NJ was the center for iron ore manufacturing and was a big player in munitions during the Revolutionary War because of both the amount of ore in the hills and the strategic location near New York City.

In 1807, the land was bought by Martin J. Ryerson who built the first home of the property which was a 10 room Federalist style home. In 1853, Peter Cooper bought the mines and the home and it became one of the biggest suppliers iron ore to the Civil War effort. Peter Cooper’s partners were his son, Edward and his future son-in-law, Abram S. Hewitt. The home became the summer estate for Mr. & Mrs. Hewitt and added on to the house in 1864, 1875, 1900 and 1910. The home then had 51 rooms and was designed in the Classic Victorian style with furnishings from all over the world. In 1938, the home, it contents and grounds of the estate was donated to the State of New Jersey (Ringwood Manor Park History).

The tour was self-guided and you could take as much time as you wanted seeing each room. There was a docent on hand to explain all the decorations and furnishings as well as the purpose of the room. One of the points that was made when I was visiting the decorated homes during the holiday season was that Victorians never decorated every room in the house like on the tours.

They decorated maybe the living room and dining room with a tree and garland. Only the wealthiest families would decorate more than that because they had servants to maintain it. Trees and garland were used after the Civil War because Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert was from Germany and brought the Pagan tradition of putting a tree inside the house with him to England (Victorian Christmas History).

After my visit to the manor, it was off to Auntie El’s Farm at 171 Route 17 South in Sloatsburg, NY (see my review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) for some baked goods and a tour of the farm. I roamed through the farm stand who just like us were wiped out of Christmas trees. I bought cake truffles ($5.00 each) and a Caramel Apple Cake ($10.95) for my Christmas dinner and munched on Apple Turnovers ($3.50) and Cider Doughnuts ($1.00) while I was there looking around the bakery. In the farm stand area, they have to most delicious jellies and jams to choose from and other gourmet products.

AUntie El's II

Auntie El’s desserts!

When I got home, I spent the rest of the time cooking for our Engine One Brunch for Company members and families on Sunday morning and then for my Christmas dinner with my family on Sunday night. I never left the kitchen.

That Sunday was a busy day for me as I had to pull off two back to back meals. In the morning from 10:00am-1:00pm was the Engine One Brunch and after clean up and saying goodbye to everyone was the early Christmas dinner with my family from 4:30pm to 9:00pm. I had never done back to back meals before and don’t plan on doing it again. Way too much work!

I got to the firehouse at 8:30am that morning and had to deal with a major mess. The Department Christmas Party had been the night before and they did not clean it properly. So the first thing I had to do was clean all the tables, throw out the garbage and mop the floors. That took almost an hour.

Then I had to clean and set up the kitchen for Brunch. Once I got that done, I set the buffet table for the food and then put all the table clothes on the tables in the main room. Then I set up and started to cook and set the tables for breakfast. By the time I was done with all of that, the first guys started to arrived to help me.

Engine One Brunch 2018 III

Me setting up breakfast

I cooked an elaborate breakfast menu for the members of our company, our honorees and family members.

Engine One Brunch 2018 II

Me in front of the Brunch Buffet Table

It really was great meal. I prepared two egg casseroles, one with bacon and the other with Italian sausage, a French Toast Souffle, homemade waffles (I drag that waffle iron all over), fresh fruit salad and then I baked a cinnamon crunch coffee cake, blueberry muffins, a chocolate chip pound cake and brought in assorted bagels from Panera and doughnuts from Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge. There was something for everyone.

We had a wonderful time. About 54 people showed up for breakfast and did people come hungry. We did not have much left. Our Lieutenant, Bernie Valente, gave the welcoming speech and greeted everyone for brunch and wished everyone a happy and safe holiday season. It was a nice morning of good food and conversation.

Engine One Brunch 2018 IV

The Engine One Members at the Brunch

After the Brunch was over, I said my goodbyes to everyone and had to clean and mop the room again. That took some time but the place was spotless when I left.

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I ran home and thank God, I had already cleaned the house, set the dining room table and prepared the house for guests. I was able to take a 45 minute break before my family showed up for a pre-Christmas dinner. I relaxed on the couch for about twenty minutes before my family showed up. I was so grateful they showed up late.

What a great time we had that night! My Aunt Dee and my cousins, Wayne and Bruce came to dinner and we had a wonderful time. Since I was joining my brothers at my Mom’s house for Christmas Eve and Day, I would not be seeing my aunts and cousins this year.

I cooked a four course meal that was my pride and joy. We started with an assortment of cheese and crackers, sauteed shrimp on toasts and mozzarella sticks with a bottle of bubbly to toast the holidays. We had a nice time just catching up with work and family events.

About an hour later, I served dinner. I kept it simple this year making chicken cutlets, a potato puff and string beans with butter. It was the perfect evening of good food and conversation. My cousins told me about work and what was going on in their lives and my aunt was telling me stories about her upcoming holiday events. We always have a nice time.

For dessert, I had the desserts from Aunt El’s. I served the caramel apple pie and the cake truffles. I have to admit that they were all a little sweet but still good. There was a layer of caramel and chocolate on the top of the apple pie. It was a nice way to end the evening.

After a week of cooking for five parties and dinners, I took a break from the kitchen and planned a couple of Christmas events. The first was I attended the Hasbrouck Heights High School Holiday concert. I had a nice time listening to the choir and jazz band. The school was packed with people filming the whole thing. I have never seen so many cells phones out.

The one event I had gone to last year was the holiday concert at Carnegie Hall and looked forward to seeing it again. The ‘Home Alone Concert’ with the New York Philharmonic had been sold out as was the ‘Holidays with Brass Concert’. So I scoured the internet to see if there were tickets left to the concert and I was in luck. It looked like someone had given up their two tickets and grabbed the second to last ticket for the concert and it was on the isle! What a concert!

First, I love going to Carnegie Hall during the holidays. It is so beautifully decorated for the holidays and everyone from the staff to the concert goers are in the festive spirit.  The concert was called “Under the Mistletoe” with the New York Pops with singer, Ashley Brown who had originated the role of “Mary Poppins” on Broadway.

Here is Ms. Brown preparing for the concert I saw on December 22nd.

 

What a wonderful concert! Ms. Brown was accompanied by Essential Voices USA which was a choir that sang during the concert. They opened with much excitement the songs “Deck the Halls” and “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year” and then introducing Ms. Brown singing “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland”. The rest of the concert was filled with traditional Christmas songs and a lot of holiday cheer.

In the middle of the second act, Santa came down the aisle near me and greeted the crowds. I swear I was having a somewhat rough holiday season missing my father and all and when I saw Santa, I really believed it was him. I was so happy to see him as was everyone else in the room. I could see how emotional people were and knew they felt the same way. It looked like everyone just wanted to believe that night and we are talking of a crowd of concert goers who were in their fifties, sixties and seventies. I guest you are never too old to believe in Santa. It has been a rough year for everyone.

The concert ended with a big sing-a-long with Santa, the Essential Voices USA and Ashley Brown leading the “Jingle Jangle Sing-Along” with the songs, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Here comes Santa Claus” and ending with “Jingle Bells”. Even Santa joined us singing! I swear, that whole concert hall rocked with people singing all the classics and it brought the house down. People were on the feet applauding at the end of the concert. I had never seen so many smiling faces in one spot in a long time.

Carnegie Hall Christmas

The Sing a Long with Santa

The next morning, was still singing the concert in the back of my mind as I was preparing breakfast at the firehouse for the Department’s Annual “Santa Around Town”. A group of us got to the firehouse early to wash the truck, so I cooked the traditional Engine One breakfast before we started the wash and decorating. I made a pancake and sausage breakfast for the guys. We had a ball eating, laughing and talking about upcoming holiday plans.

Santa Around Town 18

The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights before ‘Santa Around Town’

We then got to work washing the whole truck and preparing it for the long trip around Hasbrouck Heights greeting residents with holiday cheer and assisting Santa handing out candy canes to all the kids. It is a long evening but we really lucked out with the weather. It was warmer than usual around 45 degrees and people really came out to see Santa. We had large families of kids and dogs taking group shots with Santa. It is nice to see that people still do believe (See my Blog: The Brothers of Engine One participate in “Santa Around Town” December 23rd, 2018). We had a great time that night.

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The next morning it was off to visit my immediate family for Christmas. I know I have visited Woodstock, NY and Cape May, NJ in the past for the holidays (as you have seen in this blog) but it was time to join the family again on Christmas Day. I had not spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my mother and brothers since 1981 and the last time I had spent Christmas with my Mom was in 2010 so it was something I was looking forward to this year.

I spent my morning visiting cemeteries, paying my respect to my aunts, uncles, cousin. grand parents and finally my father, dropping off flowers and arrangements to all locations. I say a small prayer and send my wishes. I think this important at the holidays.

Then it was off for the four hour trip down to my mother’s in Delaware. It really was a wonderful Christmas with my family. We all had not been together for the holidays for such a long time. The last several years I would go down after the holidays and we would spend time together then. Since my father’s passing this is the first time the rest of us have been together as a family.

Christmas Eve was always a lot of fun in my family growing up. We would go over to my parents long time friend’s house from 1969-1981 until my parents divorce. Christmas Day was with my Aunt Elaine and my cousins from 1969-1990 right before my aunt passed away. Those were very special Christmas’s and I will always remember them. Since then it changed from year to year as was Christmas Day. All of us kids moved around the country and with school and jobs everything kept changing.

Somehow the stars aligned this year and we were all available. It really was a nice four days and it was fun connecting with everyone again. My younger brother came up with my niece and my older brother with his husband, so the extended family was all there.

We went to Confucius Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Road in Rehoboth Beach for Christmas Eve dinner (see review on TripAdvisor) and it was packed that night as if everyone in town had the same idea we did. We spent most of the evening either yelling over the table or saying hello to the dozens of people my mom knew in the community. The town was hopping for Christmas Eve and there were cars all over the place with people eating at restaurants up and down the downtown area.

When we got home after a wonderful dinner and tour of the downtown Christmas tree, we just relaxed in the living room and talked. It was nice to finally catch up with everyone in a peaceful environment. In the back of my mind, I still could not believe how Christmas creeped up on us this year or that it was actually Christmas Eve. I slept like a rock that night.

The next morning it was all hands on deck as I was helping my mother in the kitchen after breakfast. After a quick bowl of cereal and a shower, it was off to chopping, cutting and rolling in the kitchen. My mom said she would need my help in the kitchen helping with dinner which was a surprise as she never lets anyone in the kitchen when she is cooking.

I helped her make the breaded broccoli, the pigs in a blanket, making sure that she tied the crown roast the right way (it took some time) and stuff it and then arrange cookie trays for the dessert. Four of my mother’s friends joined us for dinner so there would be ten of us and did we eat that afternoon. My mother is an amazing cook and host and knows how to entertain at the holidays.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach

Cooking in the kitchen with my family

We had a nice afternoon of reminiscing about family Christmases of the past, what my mother’s friends were up to and how all of our lives were going. It was a nice evening of good eating and wonderful conversation. My brothers and I even cleaned the whole kitchen for my mother so she could relax and enjoy her guests.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach IIII

Christmas with my family

The next two days we spent at my mom’s house just catching up and relaxing and my brothers and I each hosted a meal for the other members of the family so that we could give my mom a break from cooking for a large group of house guests.

In the afternoons, pretty much everyone did their thing and then we would meet up for meals. My brother and my niece brought their little French Pug named “Boogie” up to my Mom’s so she would not be lonely. God, did we spoil that dog with attention and treats. She was the cutest most well behaved dog and what was funny was when I was lying on the floor watching a movie with my family, she plopped down next to me on the pillow and slept.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach II

Boogie sleeping next to me

Our first afternoon after Christmas, our family met at “A Touch of Italy” restaurant at my mother’s recommendation. The food was excellent. The most delicious thin crusted pizzas I have had in a long time. The pizzas, pastas and sandwiches are delicious here. For dinner the next night, we went to ‘Big Fish’, a local seafood restaurant my mother wanted to try.

It was now two days after Christmas and people looked like they were having family dinners before everyone had to go back to work. The place was mobbed! Our waiter, Scott, really handled the table well with our ten people. “Big Fish” (see my review on TripAdvisor), is a local seafood restaurant whose most popular dishes is everything fried. A friend of my mother’s said that she always has the fried shrimp when she is dining there. So that is what I had for dinner.

They were like heaven in every bite, sweet and briny and the breading was cooked perfectly. The potatoes and vegetables were also perfectly cooked. Between the entree and appetizers, there was no room for dessert to the shock of my family. Me miss dessert?

Our last morning was tough. My brothers were leaving for home and I was heading up to Cape May that evening to go to the theater to see “The Actors Carol” at the Cape May Theater and spend the night at the Chalfonte Hotel. It was baby steps back into the family Christmas and I still wanted some time alone for the holidays.

My mother made a big family breakfast and then we said our goodbyes over a fritata and sweet rolls. It was nice being able to spend some time with my brothers who live in other parts of the country and my niece who was off from school. We chatted on about the holiday and what we were doing for New Years and then it was off to travelling for all of us.

For the first time, I took the Lewes-Cape May Ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey (see review on TripAdvisor). It was about an hour and a half and had it been a warmer sunny day it would have been a beautiful trip. When I got there, I sat outside and watched dolphins swim by us. Of course, it had to be a cloudy day and then started to get cloudier and sprinkled so I spent the rest of the voyage inside watching a tourist film. I was able to watch the bay go by and it is quite a site. There is a beauty to the Delaware Bay.

I got into Cape May within the hour and settled at my hotel. I had just been at the Chalfonte in September for the Firemen’s Convention and the town was still hopping with tourists. It really has become a big destination for the holidays. It is funny though to see the main hotel closed for the season. It really does look haunted at night when only the spotlight is on it. The place was buzzing when I left nine weeks earlier.

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I settled into the Southern Annex (see review on TripAdvisor) and took a nap before the show. It had been a long but fun four days. It was nice to just relax and be by myself now. It was funny what a year can bring to you and how different you can become. I guess I was no longer that person that needed Cape May or Woodstock anymore. They were perfect for their time in my life but even I felt it was time to step out in the world again.

The show was funny that night. “The Actor’s Carol” was a take on the classic “Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. The star of the show within a show was a Prima Donna whose best acting days were behind him and made everyone miserable in this small town production. He was in turn visited by three ghosts from his past to show him how he got to where he was in life. It was not the most original show but very clever in premise.

After the production was over, I looked for a place to eat but a lot of the popular places were either closed for the holidays or closing for the evening. Just wanting a snack after the show and before going to bed, I stopped at Dellas 5 & 10 at 501-503 Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor) in downtown Cape May for dinner. This small drugstore has a soda fountain and restaurant in the back like Woolworth’s did years ago. The food is very good and the burger I had was well prepared. I had fun as the only customer talking with the waiters.

I walked all over downtown Cape May that night as I had the year before. It just seemed different this year as the experience was surreal. It was still Christmas to me but I just felt changed by the last four days. Still downtown was beautiful with all the lights on the trees, the creative window displays and the bells from the church sounding in the back. The gazebo in the main square still had the Christmas lit up and that put me back into the Christmas mood.

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The Gazebo in downtown Cape May

I got back to the hotel and slept like a log. All this driving and running around got to be too much on me. The hotel annex was really quiet even though it was full of guests. I did not hear or see anyone in my time at the hotel.

The next morning as I checked out, I was surprised to see Uncle Bill’s Pancake House at 261 Beach Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonashoestringinNYC@Wordpress.com) open this year. It was locked shut last Christmas. I guess they figured the town was busy for the holidays and trust me, a smart choice as the restaurant was busy. They have the best breakfasts and their pancakes and scrambled eggs are cooked in butter so there is some extra caramelization to them. The service there is always so friendly and welcoming.

After breakfast, I walked the downtown again, walked all through the Congress Hall Hotel, where I stayed last year for Christmas (See Day One Hundred-This is Christmas) and then visited the Physick Mansion for another Christmas tour of the house (See TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com). It is always a nice tour and the mansion is so nicely decorated for the holidays. The tour like everything else in Cape May was busy. It was sunny and around 48 degrees that morning.

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After the tour, I left Cape May, probably to see it later again in the Spring and then headed up the Jersey Shore line to visit Margate and the Lucy Elephant statue (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had not climbed the top of the elephant yet and since it was a nice day wanted to take the tour before the statue closed for the day. I drove up the shoreline to Margate, NJ and got there by 2:00pm.

Lucy the Elephant

The famous Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ

I got on the tour which was just about to leave and we climbed the whole statue and got to the top of the ‘howdah’, the transport on top of the elephant. That was the reason why I went the statue.  I had not been able to go to the top in 2015. It is the most beautiful view of the ocean and the best part is that it got warmer toward the afternoon. I was able to walk around the statue and by the beach and it must have gone up to 50 degrees.

I decided since it was early to double back to Ocean City, NJ and have some lunch before I drove home. What a spectacular afternoon walking in the Boardwalk. It was crowded because of the weather and surprisingly this late into the holiday week, a lot of the businesses were open.

I was able to go to Johnson’s Popcorn at 1360 Boardwalk (see review on TripAdvisor), which had a line ten deep, for caramel corn. They were making it in small batches and when I started eating it was still hot from the machine. There is nothing like warm caramelized corn on a cool day.

After that, I went to Manco & Manco Pizza at 8, 9 & 12th on the Boardwalk (see reviews on TripAdvisor) for lunch. Their slices were the best. They make a good sauce and it was so busy that the pies are coming constantly so it was fresh. This is a real Jersey Shore pizzeria and the attitude of the guys working there showed it. You have to visit the Jersey shore Boardwalks to know what I am talking about. As the sun started to go down, it was time to leave. It was getting cooler. I got home later that evening in good time because there was no traffic.

New Year’s Eve was just sitting at home relaxing and calling friends. It looked like everyone was bunking in this year and the fact it went down to 10 degrees on New Year’s Eve night I could not believe all those crazy tourists were sitting in Times Square. I went to bed right after Midnight.

Later that week, I did make a trip up to Woodstock, NY to see their Christmas tree before they took it down but it was down already.  The town just seemed depressed when I arrived. I had not been up here since Christmas of 2016 so it had been over a two years since I celebrated a holiday up in the mountains. First, it had a cool damp feel to the town but since you are in the mountains it can be that way. Also, since the holidays were over, a lot of decorations were already down and usually you would keep these up until the Epiphany on January 6th.

The worst was several of the restaurants and clothing businesses that I had remembered from a few years back had gone out of business so there were empty storefronts. It just did not seem like the magical place that I had enjoyed three separate, wonderful holiday season’s. I really wanted to see the tree in the square but you can’t have it all. Still I had lunch at Shindig  located at 1 Tinker Street (see review on TripAdvisor) and they have the best burgers and mac & cheese around. It was nice to sit by the window on this cold but sunny day and watch the world go by. I just walked around the town on this quiet afternoon.

The Epiphany brought my only church visit to Corpus Christi Church and the service was nice. The church was still decorated for Christmas so it was the last thing to keep me in the spirit of the holiday. We had our Installation Dinner at the fire department a week later but that is another story Check it out on my blog, The Brothers of Engine One HHFD below.

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Overall, it was a nice Christmas. Different from the last five years since my father’s passing but it was time to move on and enjoy the new family traditions we are creating. I was ready for the change.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Places to Stay:

The Chalfonte Hotel Annex

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-8409

https://www.chalfonte.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d79381-Reviews-The_Chalfonte_Hotel-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

Ringwood Manor

1304 Sloatsburg Road

Ringwood, NJ  07456

(973) 962-2240

http://www.ringwoodmanor.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46774-d9564482-Reviews-Ringwood_Manor-Ringwood_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2621

 

Auntie El’s Farm Market and Bakery

171 Route 17 South

Sloatsburg, NY  10974

(845) 753- 2122

https://auntieelsfarmmarket.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48625-d4557200-Reviews-Auntie_El_s_Farm_Market_and_Bakery-Sloatsburg_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/180

 

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g34048-d268895-Reviews-Rehoboth_Beach_Boardwalk-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Ocean City Boardwalk:

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46696-d583375-Reviews-Ocean_City_Boardwalk-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Lucy the Elephant

1900 Atlantic Avenue at Decater Avenue

Margate City, New Jersey 08402

(609) 823-6473

http://www.lucytheelephant.org/

Open: Hours are seasonal/only open on the weekends during the winter months 11:00am-4:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46600-d518065-Reviews-Lucy_the_Elephant-Margate_City_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/333

 

Emlen Physick Estate

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Friday 11:15am-4:00pm/Saturday 11:45am-4:00pm

Fee: Check with website/seasonal

https://www.capemaymac.org/emlen-physick-estate

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d614851-Reviews-Emlen_Physick_Estate-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1756

 

Places to Eat:

Sanducci’s Trattoria

620 Kinderkamack Road

River Edge, NJ  07661

(201) 599-0600

https://www.sanduccis.com/

Open: Sunday 4:00pm-9:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 4:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46776-d535253-Reviews-Sanducci_s_Trattoria-River_Edge_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

57 Wilmington Road

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3848

http://www.confuciusrb.com/

Open: Check the website for hours because of the seasonality of the beach

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d555742-Reviews-Confucius_Chinese_Cuisine-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Big Fish Grill

20298 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3474

https://bigfishgrill.com/rehoboth-beach-dining-menus/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:30pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-3:00pm & 5:00pm-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 11:30am-9:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d396017-Reviews-Big_Fish_Grill-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Touch of Italy

19724 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

(302) 703-3090

Open: Sunday-Thursday 10:00am-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-10:00pm

http://www.touchofitaly.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d4606866-Reviews-Touch_of_Italy-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Uncle Bills Pancake House

261 Beach Avenue

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

(609) 884-7199

http://www.unclebillspancakehouse.com/cape-may.html

Open: Monday- Friday 7:00am-2:00pm/Saturday-Sunday 6:30am-2:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393950-Reviews-Uncle_Bill_s_Pancake_House-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/906

 

Dellas 5 & 10

501-503 Washington Mall

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-4568

https://www.capemay.com/shops/dellas-5-10/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 9:00am-5:00pm/Friday-Saturday 9:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d1067917-Reviews-Dellas_5_10-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Manco & Manco Pizza

8, 9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-0720

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:30am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d459222-Reviews-Manco_Manco_Pizza-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Johnson’s Popcorn

8,9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-5404

Open: Sunday-Friday 10:30am-5:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

http://www.johnsonspopcorn.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d4762196-Reviews-Johnson_s_Popcorn-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Shindig

1 Tinker Street

Woodstock, NY  12498

(845) 684-7901

http://www.woodstockshindig.com/

Open: Sunday 9:00am-9:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Wednesday 10:00am-9:00pm/Thursday 9:00am-9:00pm/Friday & Saturday 9:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48915-d7376319-Reviews-Shindig-Woodstock_Catskill_Region_New_York.html?m=19905

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach VI.jpg

My mother relaxing with the Boogie

 

 

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Day One Hundred and Twenty Seven: Here Comes Christmas! Part One- November 30th-December 14th, 2018

I do not know how Christmas creeps up every year. It starts when Forth of July weekend ends and then we blink our eyes and there is Christmas. The years just keep getting faster and faster. Even though the holiday season snuck up on me the month of December was full of interesting events.

I had to put my walk around Manhattan on hold for most of the holiday season. Between classes, work, the Fire Department and selling Christmas trees (as you have seen in other blogs), the month of December was a busy one. There were different events to attend, activities to participate in and places to visit.

Christmas to me is not just the holiday itself but the time of the year to give back and help raise money for those in need. I really believe in giving back to the community during the holidays so there was a whole series of fundraisers that I attended. As my friends always say of me, you never sit still for one minute.

The holiday season started right after returning from seeing Lillian out in Kings Park, NY. We had such a nice time together having dinner with the other families and enjoying the entertainment that I promised her that I would see her in two weeks for the family Christmas dinner at her facility.

The next day, I got up early to the firehouse to help wash the truck as the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was participating in the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Our Chamber of Commerce sponsors the parade and Christmas tree lighting every year on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always a lot of fun. It gives all of us a chance to give back to the community as the procession of floats, decorated cars and organizations participate in the parade ending at the circle near the edge of town for the tree lighting ceremony.

Christmas Parade in HH

Engine One in the Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade

Before the parade, all of us met up at the firehouse to wash and decorate the trucks and then stage by the Boulevard before the parade. I always enjoy watching the little kids in awe when the trucks pass by. It was cold the night of the parade so the crowds were thinner than previous years but still people looked like they were having a nice time. After the parade was over, everyone met at the circle for the tree lighting ceremony which got the usual ohhs and ahhs.

I had to be up early the next day as we had to unload 340 Christmas trees from the truck for the Annual Christmas tree sales for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. This is our organization’s largest fundraiser and it is our job to sell all those trees for our scholarship program. We must have set a new record for emptying the truck and by the end of the season for selling them (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Six).

It is something for me as next year I will be going on my twentieth year on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association.  I have seen the growth of the organization and the all the high school seniors that we have given a head start with our scholarship program.  I can’t believe I have served on the Executive Board for four years now as Director (Sargent of Arms). It has been quite the journey.

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

The members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association setting up the trees.

This starts the holiday season in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Boulevard decorated for the holidays, fantastic window displays by our town merchants and everyone excited that Santa was coming.  The holiday season means holiday parties, tours of decorated mansions, hand writing Christmas cards and keeping everything in check. I went to a record thirteen Christmas parties and get togethers this year. I am the member so many organizations and with four jobs everyone wants to get together. I was a busy person this year.

Right after Thanksgiving Weekend with the endless activity and getting to work selling those trees, I had to go back to work and put my schedule together for the month of December.

My first weekend of December was busy with back to back activities with Sinterklaas Weekend ahead of me and the day after the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party. This is always a busy weekend so I spend my weekend up in Rhinebeck at the Quality Inn (See review on TripAdvisor) while I run from one place to another. This was on top of the fact that my class would be presenting their final project for my Communications class the Monday I got back to work.

This was my sixth year participating in the parade. Rhinebeck, New York is a magical place at the holidays. The store windows are beautifully decorated with all sorts of merchandise that showcase the stores and the trees that line the downtown are layered with white lights that illuminate the downtown. Little wooden paintings line all the trees in the downtown area and garland accents a lot of buildings. It looks like a quaint little Christmas town straight out of a Currier & Ives print.

Rhinebeck at Christmas.jpg

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas

I help with the set up at 10:00am at the Starr Library every year. This year the theme was the Butterfly. (At the cocktail party fundraiser before Thanksgiving, the Sinterklaas community was introduced to the Butterfly King & Queen and were given the traditional blessing before the start of the Sinterklaas season.) The committee created Butterfly puppets for the parade that we put together that morning. As I unpacked the truck with the other volunteers, I could not believe how fast the year went. I kept asking myself how did this go so fast.

The same group of volunteers I have worked with for four years and we all worked in tandem with each other, emptying out the truck, unloading all the puppets and then putting them all together and stacking them against the library for the night of the parade. I have done this for so many years, I know how to put most of them together in my sleep. We were done in about two hours and then I was able to enjoy the rest of the days activities.

I have been volunteering in the parade now since 2010 and I can definitely tell you that the number of people has tripled over the past four years alone. After the Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms Hotel (I get a kick out of Mother Holly’s ‘feeling Jolly’ speech every year), I got a copy of the day’s activities and then snuck up to Red Hook, NY right up Route 9 to visit a few stores and restaurants on my bucket list for my blogs (you will find Little Pickles Children’s Store on ‘LittleShoponMainStreet’ and Village Pizza II on ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ on my WordPress.com blog sites). Red Hook’s downtown was decorated for their Christmas event the next weekend. As one gallery owner explained “everyone is in Rhinebeck for Sinterklaas, so the town is quiet”.

I was able to visit businesses for my blogs that had not been open the weekend I visited President Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY (see the Van Buren Homestead on my VisitingaMuseum.com site) and revisit old ones. I wanted to get a better feel for their downtown. (Please don’t miss the pizza at Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. Their slices are excellent).

By the time I got back to Rhinebeck at about 1:30pm, I could not find a parking spot. The town was mobbed with people and almost every block around the downtown was lined with cars. I had to park almost five blocks away.

The rest of the afternoon was full of concerts, performances by the dancing polar bear and the grumpuses and lively singing at the churches. All four churches in town had either singing groups or bands. Lining the Main Street of Rhinebeck were all sorts of local charities selling Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, hot dogs and other snacks. Most were almost empty when I got back as people were snacking as they walked the streets to get from one activity to another.

Sinterklaas Parade III.jpg

The Grumpus singing and dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

I decided to relax and not run around for the afternoon as I have seen most of the shows and acts that were on the roster and pinpointed how I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon.

I first visited the Butterfly nest that was located in the courtyard. The artists are very creative on the Sinterklaas staff. They built entire Butterfly cocoon that you could walk through. There was music going on in and around the cocoon and when I exited, the grumpuses were starting to do one of their dances in the courtyard. They had the whole crowd laughing and clapping along.

My stop on the event was the ‘Into the Light’ show at the Church of the Messiah. I have seen this show over the years of coming to Sinterklaas and I swear, the girl who plays the main character has not changed in the last five years. She is just getting older.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 II.jpg

‘Into the Light’ Show

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the United Methodist Church listening to the Brass bands. I got to hear the Funkrust Brass Band and The Second Line Brass Band. It was nice to just sit back and relax and listen to the music. I had been running around the town the who afternoon.

After the bands, it was time to get ready for the parade. So back up to the Starr Library and my position in the parade as part of the “Star Forest” of puppets. We lucked out again that night as the weather was mild and it was in the high 40′ that night.

As the excitement of the parade started and we made our way down the hill, I noticed immediately that the crowds had really grown this year. They were five deep at the parade route on both sides and everyone had their cellphones out to record the parade. With all the white lights on the trees, all the decorated windows in full light and all the Sinterklaas stars that lined the route, it was a beautiful and festive night when coming into town.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 III

Me in the Parade in the ‘Star Forrest; by the Mother Earth Float

People got so excited to see “Sinterklaas” (the Dutch word for ‘Santa Claus’) and the various characters in the parade as ‘Mother Holly’, ‘The Pocket Lady’, ‘The Dancing Polar Bear and his trainer”, ‘The Butterfly King and Queen’,  ‘The Grumpuses’ and ‘The Wild Women of Rhinebeck’ joined the brass bands, floats, puppets and singers, dancers, performers and animals who make the parade what is every year. It really is exciting to be part of this parade.

At the end of the parade route, we pass the stage with all the members of the Sinterklaas family to make our final goodbyes until next year and drop off the puppets. It was funny that the whole time I was walking in the parade I kept telling myself how fast the year had gone and I could not believe I was here again.

Watch me in the Sinterklaas Parade in the ‘Star Forrest’ on the right

I dropped off my puppet and went to watch the last of the parade before leaving for dinner. It was fun to watch the fire throwers perform at the end of the parade. It was a nice way to end the evening and after the performance was over, the crowds dispersed to go to dinner. Every restaurant in town was mobbed all evening.

I went to a barbecue restaurant that I had wanted to try for years, (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the buffet dinner ($20.00) that they had set up for the day and just ate. I had to admit as much as l liked the food, the waiter annoyed me when he charged me for the refills on the drinks (Noted in the review and in his tip).

As I walked back to my car, it started to mist and rain lightly. I did not realize how far I had packed away from town. I was four blocks away near the Duchess County Fairgrounds. That is how busy the town was that day. I just went back to the hotel and relaxed. I had an early trip the next morning.

The next morning after a big breakfast, it was off to the Boonton Firemen’s Home for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party for the residents that we throw every year. The facility was nicely decorated and we had some crowd that afternoon with all the residents present and their family members as well.

The band was a lot to be desired as they were off key most of the time and the lead singer could not sing a note. The place was really in the holiday spirit when member, Jerry Naylis and his family, who sing in their church choir and whose daughter in law sing opera, entertained the crowd. It really livened up the room and put us all in the holiday spirit. His little granddaughter stole the show when she sang ‘Jingle Bells’.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 III

The Naylis Family entertaining the residents at the Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ

During the intermission we gave the residents their Christmas presents, monogrammed sweatshirts with their names on them, as a gift which I still see them wearing everytime we come to the home for events (See blog, BCFHA@Wordpress.com-Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association below).

https://wordpress.com/post/tbcfha.wordpress.com/156

The residents look forward to this party every year and were very touched by the gifts and the holiday thoughts. It was a fun time for all.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 II

The members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association with the residents in December 2018

After the party was over, the members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association went to dinner at the Columbia Inn for our annual get together. We had a great time just catching up with one another and having a few laughs. The restaurants pizza is terrific too (See review on TripAdvisor).

With the weekend closing, it was back to work for me and another week of a round of holiday parties. First though, my students presented their project, “Bergecco-Park Consulting Inc. presents “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”, their final exam project (See Day One Hundred & in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’). The students gave a very professional presentation to a crowd of professors and administrators and members of the Athletic, Theater, Art, College Foundation, Alumni Association and Department of Special Services were on hand to view the presentation. It was well received by everyone and I could not have been prouder as a professor (please view that blog for the full project presentation).

bergecco logo yellow brick road final draft

Our logo for “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”.

See the whole project presentation on my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com”

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8022

After I finally had the presentation behind me, it was a series of holiday parties one after another between the school, the fire department and various organizations that I am involved in (and that number is high). I joined the faculty at the college for our annual holiday get together, which was really nice. They had a full Thanksgiving dinner for us and a lot of holiday cheer. The Administration got up and wished us all a happy holiday season and good luck with the remainder of classes. It was nice to talk to the other professors who had come to the presentation. They gave me nice feedback at the party.

The next night it was off to the Engine One Christmas Party at Segovia’s in Moonachie. It was a nice evening with the guys, toasting the year and the successes that we had as a company (See The Brothers of Engine One HHFD-Blog on WordPress.com). It had been a busy year for us activity and project wise accomplishing both getting the bell fixed and chromed and getting the tee-shirts finally ordered and out to everyone. It was nice to catch up with everyone in a relaxed environment.

On Friday night was the annual Friends of Mills Mansion Holiday Cocktail party and fundraiser. Normally this is the night before Sinterklaas but it seemed that no one was in the holiday spirit on November 30th so they held it the week after.

Mills Mansion Holiday Party

Me at the Mills Mansion Holiday Party with members of the Friends Executive Board and dancers from the Isabel Duncan Dance company.

We had a really nice time. The event for the first time was sold out and the mansion was packed with well dressed people. The food was excellent and the servers did a nice job passing appetizers to all the guests. One of the local wineries was sampling one of their new sweet ice wines as well as a Chenin Blanc. It was a perfect dessert wine for the holidays.

The rooms were fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas and the Jazz band they had performing were excellent. They were engaging and people cleared the floor for impromptu dancing. It was nice to see people get up and dance again. It was nice to just sit back and catch up with other members I had met over the years and listen to the music. After that I took a quick tour of the rooms before heading back to the main room to hear the holiday greetings from the Executive Board.

Mills Mansion Dining Room

The formal dining room at the Mills Mansion for Christmas

It was important that they sold out the event because the money will go to renovating both ceiling in the dining room and redoing the curtains that line the dining room windows. The mansion is slowly returning to its past glory and these events make this possible. The only problem was I was really tired after the event and it was a long ride home.

The weekend was coming up and there were two big events planned and I wanted to get enough rest to enjoy them. The first was on Saturday afternoon where I joined the Cornell Club as we we took a tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile and Gramercy Park with an event, the “Victorian Tour: Origin of Christmas Traditions” (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight). We literally walked this entire section of the City around Union and Gramercy Parks and walked up lower Sixth Avenue to visit the old department store buildings to know their history as part of the shopping area after the Civil War.

Ladies Shopping Mile

Ladies Shopping Mile on lower 6th Avenue

On Sunday was the dress rehearsal for the “Washington Crossing Reenactment” at Washington Crossing Historic Park. The event takes place every Christmas morning to remember when General Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the British. It was an interesting event that everyone should see once in life. It is very important to know how he crossed the river, in what type of boat and the conditions they were under that morning during a snow storm.

Washington Crossing Reenactment II.jpg

The Military Parade by the Delaware River

We started the morning with a Artillery Demonstration and then this lead to a Fife and Drum Parade in the historic village on the Pennsylvania side of the park. Then the troops had a Musket Firing Demo & Soldier’s Drill by the Delaware River. At noontime, the troops had their formation and the Reading of the Order of Battle.

See the parade of soldier’s before the Crossing December 2018

By 12:45pm when the troops made their trip, the event was narrated by Major General Walter Lord, U.S. Army (Retired). The troops had their parade movement and then they loaded the Durham boats, which were rebuilt for the event from the original designs that General Washington and the troops actually used.

Washington Crossing Reenactment.jpg

The Washington Crossing Reenactment 2018

What I found interesting about the event was that they used the same boats as General Washington used and even in normal conditions, it was hard to maneuver these boats in the river. One of the boats even had problems had with the crossing and it took them extra time to cross and they had rescue boats off to the side in case the boats lost control, Imagine doing this during an ice storm riding in boats with chunks of ice coming at you in the water. What these men did to save our freedom is commendable.

The reenactments have been going on at this site since 1838 where it was discussed the importance of this historic event. The first attempt at a proper crossing was done in 1844 but the crowd was so rowdy and drunk that it marred the event. When they tried the event again in 1876, it was so cold and the exposure to the weather and too much alcohol consumption by the crowd marred the event again and it was noted not to attempt is again for another hundred years (History of Washington Crossing-Park).

As part of a pledge project in 1947, a group of Rider College students attempted the crossing again and it received national attention. In 1953, a half-scale Durham boat was built and a proper ‘authentic’ using the same boats as used that day of the crossing and it was successful. Over 700 people came to the event and since then it has become an annual tradition (Washington Crossing Park History).

It was a busy first half of the holiday season and just kept getting busier as the holiday got closer. Between work and outside activities, I just kept running.

Please read about the Victorian Walking Tour on Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight.

 

Places to stay:

Quality Inn Rhinebeck

4142 Albany Post Road

Hyde Park, NY  12538

(845) 229-0088

https://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/aclk?sa=L&ai=DChcSEwjjlt6N7OvgAhWGhLMKHbcJBsgYABAAGgJxbg&ohost=www.google.com&cid=CAASE-RooTIxmc5SMBldM5FH_lmQddE&sig=AOD64_2mmL-hiEz3ZSdcMhSE1Dot8L-jQw&q=&ved=2ahUKEwiQnteN7OvgAhWkct8KHa-EB7wQ0Qx6BAgNEAE&adurl=

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60801-d590312-Reviews-Quality_Inn_Hyde_Park-Hyde_Park_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

Columbia Inn

29 Main Road

Montville, NJ 07045

(973) 263-1300

https://www.thecolumbiainn.com/

Hours: Sunday 1:00pm-9:30pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 2:30pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46639-d639843-Reviews-Columbia_Inn_Restaurant-Montville_Morris_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Smokey Rock BBQ

6367 Mill Street

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-5232

Hours: Sunday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm

https://www.smokyrockbbq.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48486-d6684399-Reviews-Smoky_Rock_BBQ-Rhinebeck_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Visit:

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

http://www.rhinebeckchamber.com/

 

Washington Crossing Historical Park

Washington Crossing PE Road

Titusville, NJ  08560

(609) 737-0623

https://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46869-d3440313-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_State_Historic_Park-Titusville_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Washington Crossing Historical Park

1112 River Road

Washington Crossing, PA  18977

(215) 493-4076

https://www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g53924-d2522457-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_Historic_Park-Washington_Crossing_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

Have a great holiday season!!

Here’s the whole reenactment event on YouTube of the Washington Crossing Event 2018

 

 

Day One Hundred and Thirty: I dedicate this to my friends, Lillian Heckler and Helen Chao. I will miss you both!

It is never easy saying Goodbye to a close friend especially ones that you have known for thirty years. I know that the holidays are never easy but when you had to attend as many wakes, Memorial services and funerals as I did this year, it puts the holiday season into perspective.

The toughest is when you lose a friend who has seen you from everything from the beginnings of your career, to the loss of a family member and all your successes and failures in life and at the same time never judges you for it but still offers sound advice. That is what a real friend does.

I just lost two friends I have long mentioned in my blogs, Helen Chao and Lillian Heckler, who have know for thirty and twenty-five years respectively.

Helen I had met on my second day of work at R. H. Macy when our Executive Training Program class took our tour of the Herald Square store. We started at the bottom the store and worked our way up the eight floors of selling space. One of the stops was in the Visitors Center on the Mezzanine of the store. We were introduced to the people who worked there and took some time to look around.

One of my best friends was living in Singapore at the time and I wanted to get him a store directory in Chinese as a gift to show him where I was working. So on lunch hour I doubled back to the Visitors Center to find one. This is how I met Helen. I asked her where I could find one and at the time there was none in Chinese only Japanese. Since he spoke both French and English on top of Chinese, I got him the directories in English, French and Japanese as a gift.

We just got to talking and we ended up talking the whole lunch hour. Later on that week I stopped by again to say hello and that started the friendship between myself, Helen and another woman, Linda, who also worked in the Department. We just got along so well that I would stop by every once in while when I was in Training Squad classes.

That blossomed into a long friendship between the three of us that lasted until Linda left the company three years later. When I returned from a two year job experience in our New Haven store (now closed) as a manager and then was promoted back to the Herald Square store as an Assistant Buyer, Helen and I resumed our friendship. We would go out to lunch when the two of us had time and would visit the store for the Flower Show and for Christmas when we were both off from work.

Over the years, we exchanged laughs and lots of stories. Helen told me how her family had come to America after the Cultural Revolution and her father had been an educator and had to leave the county. Her mother was Japanese and I am sure that did not make it easier for the two of them in those difficult times. I always found the stories about her life fascinating. She would also give me the latest stories of her children and grandchildren and their doings.

After her retirement from Macy’s and her family’s move from Valley Stream, NY to Flushing, NY admittingly like a lot of friends the connection that bound us, Macy’s, was gone and she was not in the City as much. Still over the years we kept in touch and would meet to see the Macy’s Flower Show in the Spring and in Chinatown for Dim Sum when she was at a doctor’s appointment. As time went on though, these became less and less as work  and commitments took away our free time.

In the later years, we saw one another at least once a year and I always called her on her birthday (we were ten days apart), Chinese New Year and Christmas and I always sent cards out to her. I had seen her for the last time in 2015 when I read about a Dim Sum Palace in Flushing that was noted as the best in the City and we decided to meet there. It was nice to see her again but even I had to admit things had changed. We ended up talking about the past and she wasn’t as chatty as she used to be. We had a nice time but it did not seem the same. The sad part was one month after our lunch, Helen suffered a stroke. I found that out about four months later when I was finally able to reach her husband.

Having taken care of my own father after his stroke and being the primary caregiver (Visit my blog, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver.com’ on WordPress.com), I was Helen’s biggest cheerleader. I would call at the holidays and her birthday to encourage her, send her cards to cheer her up and just be a friend. I always got the impression she did not want me to visit her so I respected that.

The last time I talked to her was on her birthday on October 1st, 2018 and we had a nice conversation. I could tell she was tired but she was happy I called and told me she had gotten my birthday card. She thanked me for always remembering after all these years. I did not realize that she had turned 90.

My last phone to Helen was on December 22, 2018 right before Christmas. I would be visiting my mother and our family at the holidays and would not have time to make my traditional phone calls Christmas morning as I had done the previous four years. This is when her husband had told me that she had passed away the night before. We had a very heartfelt conversation that lasted almost an hour and I gave him my condolences. He said that she always appreciated all those years of phone calls and cards and how much it meant that I never forgot her at the holidays and her birthday.

As we said our goodbyes and I wished him and his family a happy holiday season in these difficult times, it was surreal to know that I would not be talking to her again after thirty years of friendship. The one impression I got was that in some small way I was cheering her up and encouraging her all those years and maybe that made a small difference in her life that a friend did not forget her. I was glad she was part of the my life.

My friendship with Lillian happened many years later when I was an Manager at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue, the upscale toy store on Fifth Avenue. I had worked at the store as a manager from July of 1995 to February of 1996 right before I left to attend the Culinary Institute of America. I had casually met her and talked to her when I ran the Boy’s Action Department which was right next to the Pre-School Department where she worked.

How I got to know Lillian better is when I had to leave school in 1997 to earn money for my last semester and went back to FAO for seven months to work the holiday season as a full time manager. Management placed me in the Pre-School Department as a Manager as some of the other managers in the store said it was ‘difficult to work there’ because of all the long service employees that dominated the department. I ended up blossoming in the department and it was one of the best managerial experiences I had had in years.

Lillian greeted me in the Pre-School Department with “Hi Justin, I’m Lillian but you can just call me ‘Grandma’ if you like.” I told her I preferred to keep it professional and I would just call her ‘Lillian’. I loved her energy and the fact that she was 77 at the time and she could ring circles around most of the staff in the store. She and the other long service employees in the department Barbara, Clover and Shirley I found to be a real asset to the department in that they never called in sick, knew their merchandise, knew how to merchandise and could sell up a storm. We did a lot of laughing as well.

After I finished my holiday stint at FAO, I continued to stop in the store on my weekends home when I was in the City and would visit the ladies. We would still continue our conversations and I would regale my stores of what was happening in cooking school. Later on after graduation, I would work in the store again for another four months for the holiday season and would cover the department again. It was nice to work with that staff for the holidays.

After that, I moved on to Hawaii and California after graduation but I still kept in touch with Lillian and Barbara until they both retired from the company and eventually FAO would close the Fifth Avenue store after bankruptcy. Lillian, Barbara and I would continue to meet up in the City about four times a year for lunch and dinner and I would visit Lillian in Astoria, Queens when she got into her late 80’s and early 90’s. She lived by herself until she was 95.

A broken hip that year and some time in rehab led Lillian to an assisted living facility out in North Shore of Long Island near the fork of the North and South Shore of the Hamptons. I started to visit her again to catch up with her. After my own father passed (who this blog is dedicated to), I started to visit her more often especially close to her birthday and the holidays.

The last two years I had spent Easter, her birthday in June, Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas events and at least one day during the summer to visit her. I always brought out lunch for us (she liked to have Italian and Chinese because the facility did not serve the types she liked) and baked goods from the local bakery. In the warmer months, I would take her to the courtyard or patio and we would talk and converse with other caregivers and their families. We continued to have our long talks, our heart to hearts and laugh at old stories.

People at the facility that she was living at I could sometimes see could not understand why we were friends. This was considering the fact that I had known the woman for twenty four years and we had seen each other through the ups and downs of life. I never saw Lillian as being her age, I just saw her as being Lillian. I spent her 100th birthday with her on June 6th, 2018 (See Day One Hundred and Fourteen of “MywalkinManhattan.com”)and she had just as much pep that day as she always did. I drove her around the facility with balloons on her wheelchair and the staff and residents alike wish her a Happy Birthday. I could see the lives she touched there as well.

The last time I saw her was in December for the “Family Dinner” we had on her floor at the facility. I gave Lillian a choice when I came out to visit for Christmas, I could come to the dinner or to the concert the next week. It would be hard to do both with my work schedule and we chose the dinner. We had such a nice time (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Four of “MywalkinManhattan.com”) and did a lot of laughing and talking. My visits always cheered her up.

Something struck me though on my way to the facility. As I got closer and pulled off the highway, I had the sinking feeling that this was going to be the last time I would be visiting. It had really struck me hard.

I shook it off and decided to just have a good time. After the dinner was over, I headed home because I had to work the next day. Before I left, I talked with Lillian’s roommate’s daughters who joined us for dinner and gave them my number and my email address and asked them to contact me if anything were to happen to Lillian. It was them who told me that Lillian had passed.

I went to Northport for the wake and funeral and met Lillian’s grandchild and great grandchildren. We spent the night of the wake just sitting around talking. There were no other visitors besides myself and her family. We told our ‘Lillian’ stories. After the wake and her family left, I took a ride around Northport, NY and did not realize that such a pretty shore town existed.

Since Lillian had passed during the Epiphany, the town’s Christmas tree was still up at the harbor and I could not believe how beautiful and picturesque it was that night. I though “Lillian would have loved this”. I think that was the last gift she gave to me. They had a beautiful service for her and I said my goodbyes.

It was a tough time before and after Christmas but I am the one who was blessed with two wonderful friends who saw me through the beginnings of my career, my years in school and develop into the person I am now and was glad went through all the steps along the way.

So with much love, I dedicate this blog, One Hundred and Thirty and my midpoint of the island of Manhattan of my walk at 59th Street, to two very special “Ladies” in my life, Mrs. Helen Chao and Mrs. Lillian Heckler. Ladies, thank you for your love and friendship both for over twenty-five years. You are the best and I will not forget you!

With all my love, your friend, Justin!